Chinese Girl Cartoons – Psycho Diver: Soul Siren

You know, normally I wait to write the review until after I’ve actually watched the thing I’m reviewing, but sometimes things happen that impress upon the viewer their need to be recorded with great immediacy. First, a guy’s head explodes. Second, the protagonist has an answering machine that uses DVDs for storage. Third, there is J-pop featuring gibberish intoned in a fake Jamaican accent. Fourth, the protagonist’s name is Superman. The extent to which subtitles in Comic Sans on a low quality YouTube video can be trusted is minimal even when approached in the most charitable of spirits, but Superman absolutely definitely for real tells another guy: “You have the pot. You are incapable of killing me.” To which said other guy responds: “Don’t speak too soon. Try some.” Like I always say, when life gives you shitsubs, you make… whatever the hell this is.

Initially I thought this was going to be a rip-off of Scanners, you’ve got the psychics, you’ve got the head explosion, you’ve got the weird cult trying to make the cult leader’s daughter a vessel for their god. Okay, so maybe that last part wasn’t in Scanners, nor really 99% of what happens(?) in this OVA, but I really thought that was where it was going. Instead, it’s just complete nonsense. There is a girl, who seems to be pretty consistently referred to as Yuki throughout, and she is psychic, or she can be psychic, but all she wants to do is sing, but her mother, who is the leader of a cult (oh, you know how those mothers are!), wants to give Yuki god powers for reasons. Her father doesn’t like this, so he hires Superman, the titular psycho diver, to dive like a psycho into Yuki’s head and get rid of the craziness. At first, Superman doesn’t want to, since Yuki was the cause of the head explosion we see at the very beginning, but then someone kills his dog off screen, prompting him to reconsider.

As with most 50 minute OVAs, there’s the sense throughout that a lot of detail has been left to implication of the variety that requires extreme leaps in logic on the part of the audience, which is bizarre when you consider just how much time is devoted to explaining the very, indeed almost impossibly one-dimensionally simple fact that Yuki, head explosions and all, just wants to sing songs. The fake Jamaican “singing” seems to be accompanied by some kind of music video in which she smashes up a burning car with a guitar and then goes to jail and does laundry, but at first I assumed it was showing us some kind of back story for the character. No, it ain’t. The diving sequences occasionally show us a doll-like thing that is apparently possessing Yuki, but apart from that it shows us a fairly accurate representation of what happens in dreams, that is to say it shows us completely random shit. These give us most of the gore content of the OVA, which is usually done in quick cuts, probably both to suggest yet stronger images to the audience and to save money, since anime has ever been a budget affair.

I wish more random intercutting of nonsense had occurred, since most of the time we have to look at Superman’s supremely ugly character design instead. His face fits neatly with the generic corporate goon archetype that so readily populates anime of a certain era, and his dress sense matches without fault, but his hair, my god! Not being much for memes, I would ordinarily refrain, but this is a “just fuck my shit up fam” barnet if ever I saw one. Outside of this central oddity, the rest of the cast is disappointingly generic. There are a couple of pretty girls, one of whom we have the distinct pleasure of ogling naked after she has just been murdered off-screen. I mean, you kind of expect it at this point, but it sticks out here because, while it is cheap, Psycho Diver is pretty tame in the scuzz department overall. Padding out the male side of things we have a generic heavy, a giggly knife man, a guy who looks like he got lost on his way to the clown gang meet in Neo-Tokyo, and an old man who gets his face mushed into the floor. So it goes.

Now, not being one to leave stones unturned, albeit with a gloved hand, since you never know what you might get on your fingers with terrain of this nature, I was given ample reason to watch Psycho Diver a second time, for the video misleadingly titled “Psycho Diver – Soul Siren (1997) – English Subbed” on YouTube is in fact—drum roll please—a shitdub! To start with, we still get the fake Jamaican nonsense, but the female vocal, which I guess is supposed to be Yuki’s own, features rapping that sounds like it came from Hip Hop eJay. “I’m reduced to a number, a cog in the machine, involuntary member(?), they try to take your dreams.” I’m just doing my bit for those of you out there who actually remember eJay, which as far as I can tell hasn’t been a thing for over ten years now. In any case, this more or less confirms that the opening sequence, minus the head explosion, is a music video for a song by Yuki, which is apparently called “Warfare Beware”. Unfortunately, the dub itself is nothing special, occasionally warranting a few unintended laughs, but mostly consisting of droning monotones reciting perfunctory dialogue.

Psycho Diver is a complete mediocrity and it’s really no wonder that it’s so obscure among its sleazy OVA brethren. It pretends to the artistic but trips up over its own lack of style. Of the psychic themed anime I’ve seen, it’s more competently organised than the abysmal Hell Target but lacks the boneheaded fun of Oedo 808, taking itself far too seriously for the minuscule amount of substance it has to offer. All told, a pretty weak start to my 2020 season of delicate tolerance for anime bullshit, but at least that means there’s a good chance things will improve from here.

Book Review: Ready Player One

Note: This article is very long, was not written using WordPress, and reads better in a traditional layout. While I have taken some time to reformat the work to suit this page, viewing the direct (sans-serified) copy of the original ODT file on Google Docs is recommended for the most comfortable reading.

On the way home from registering with a new dentist one afternoon, I passed through Hillsborough’s shopping district and thought I would chance at some cheap books in one of the charity shops there. The one I entered was selling books for a pound apiece, which is not bad at all assuming you like genre fiction and celebrity tell-alls which were most likely written by someone other than the person on the front cover. As I was browsing through the two-a-year romance novels and massed Rankins, I happened upon Bram Stoker’s Dracula, one of those classics I had not yet had the chance to read. It was a Wordsworth edition, from a time before they had started putting pictures of models in garish period costume on the front, one frilly elbow or a feathered tricorne poking out of the frame and into the matt black surround. A few minutes later I found Hyperion, a highly regarded science fiction novel by Dan Simmons, a sort of space opera version of the Canterbury Tales. I’d been meaning to widen my reading away from “literary” fiction out to genre stuff for a while, so that was an easy pound to spend also. Almost immediately after that, my eyes fell on what I would come to know as “the atrocity”. This was Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

Before the Spielberg blockbuster there was a book, and in that book there are words. And oh, what words! “Imagine the WORLD AT STAKE,” the back cover implores me. Given the state of the world right now, and forever, it would take more effort, and possibly be more enjoyable for me to imagine something else. But an “EPIC STRUGGLE” to complete the “GREATEST QUEST in human history” is perhaps a little bit more enticing. So, who’s struggling epically to complete the greatest of quests? Why, it’s Wade Watts! Wade Watts is a pale pasty overweight nerd and ain’t that just so gosh darned relatable? Well, let’s hope so, the book really depends on you relating to this character on pretty much that basis alone, because fuck if he has any other qualities. Oh wait, I’m sorry, he’s good at video games. And he watches a lot of TV. But I’m getting ahead of myself, first we need some history so that we can properly establish who Wade Watts is. Both of his parents are dead, so he’s kind of like Batman. Batman is a comic book character who debuted in 1937, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger for Detective Comics. Is that information useful to you? Of course it is. Like Ernest Cline, when I namedrop something I have to give a brief paraphrase of the introductory paragraph of the relevant Wikipedia article so that people can know—though never as deeply as I—what I’m talking about, because I am possessed of very specialised knowledge and I can’t expect you, the average reader, to have heard of such obscure things, and I certainly don’t expect you to look them up because then I wouldn’t be able to pad this out to such a length that I might fool myself, and apparently a long list of others into believing that I have achieved something in writing it.

So, Wade Watts. He lives in a stack. A stack is a multi-level tower of scaffolding with caravan trailers on each level. These were implemented as an alternative to building high-density projects for poor people. Since his parents died he has been living with his aunt, whom he does not like, and her boyfriend, whom he likes even less. He has his escape in an inconspicuous van, within which there is a heater and a computer which he uses to connect to the OASIS, an MMO that combines Second Life style trade of virtual and real items for real money with more standard RPG mechanics in a vast virtual universe comprising thousands of planets, each of which has a particular theme or pays homage to a particular game, movie, or whatever else. In the virtual world you can attend school, access pretty much any book, TV show, film, game, music etc. that you want, and also visit planets full of dungeons and grind for levels, but the big news right now is that, in the wake of the death of James Halliday, creator of the OASIS, a contest has begun. Halliday, in a video called “Anorak’s Invitation”, reveals that he has placed three secret keys and three matching gates in the OASIS, and once these have been found and unlocked, any player to do so will have a chance to find the Easter egg. Upon finding the egg they will inherit the creator’s fortune of several hundred billion dollars, control of his company Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS), and the OASIS itself.

The contest adds another layer to Wade’s refuge from the outside world. By day he is Wade3 at one of the generic high schools in the game. By night he is Parzival, gunter. Yes, gunter. As in “[eg]g [h]unter”. Don’t look at me, I didn’t make this shit up. The gunters are at war with the Sixers, employees of the “Oology Division” of Innovative Online Industries (IOI, which Cline helpfully informs us is pronounced “eye-oh-eye”…), a generic faceless megacorporation of evilness that uses underhanded tactics to try and solve the mystery so that they can turn the OASIS into an ad-ridden corporo-fascist hellhole that will make them a whole lot of money. Wade tells us that gunters call the Sixers “the Sux0rz. (Because they sucked.)”, and if that doesn’t blast your sides into orbit, hang on, because there’s still 340 pages to go and they just keep getting funnier and more charming. But don’t worry, I’m not going to provide a page by page running commentary, mainly because who has the time, but also because one of the things this book likes to do is repeat itself, if not literally repeating paragraphs wholesale then repeating the forms in which the action, such as it is, takes place.

Throughout the book, Wade—or, let’s be honest here, Ernest—just loves to list things, and especially he loves to list names of things. Take this passage for example:

    “When it came to my research, I never took any shortcuts. Over the past five years, I’d worked my way down the entire recommended gunter reading list. Douglas Adams. Kurt Vonnegut. Neal Stephenson. Richard K. Morgan. Stephen King. Orson Scott Card. Terry Pratchett. Terry Brooks. Bester, Bradbury, Haldeman, Heinlein, Tolkien, Vance, Gibson, Gaiman, Sterling, Moorcock, Scalzi, Zelazny. I read every novel by every single one of Halliday’s favourite authors.
    “And I didn’t stop there.”

He does not stop there.
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Chinese Girl Cartoons – Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman

Apparently this is a series I’m doing now? Sure, why not. Amon is the third Devilman OVA, released in 2000. While it is usually grouped together with The Birth and The Demon Bird, really it is its own thing. Not only is it adapting a completely different arc of the manga, it is done in a much different style. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an English dub, so I had to suffer instead through a really bad fansub made with what appears to be Windows Movie Maker that you can find on YouTube. I later discovered another, official sub, which I skipped through to confirm certain things, but it would be fair to say that plot is not really a big deal here. Dubs and subs aside, Amon is probably the weirdest of the Devilman stuff I’ve seen so far. One the one hand it is extremely violent and graphic, seeming to take a kind of Violence Jack level of glee in such things as child murder; on the other hand it is surprisingly tame, cutting away from things that are pretty much standard fare, like decapitation or limb severance and generic mass carnage, and lingering on stuff like Devilman ripping a demon’s breasts off and eating them. I suspect this has something to do with budgetary concerns, but even so, this addition to the series, if it can be called a series, seems much more leeringly exploitative and far less subtle than its predecessors, while also being quite squeamish, somehow. Yes, that’s right, I am saying that Amon in the original Japanese is less subtle than “let’s take a swing at the motherfuckers!”, and you might think that impossible, but with Amon the sky really is the limit in terms of bullshit.

The first scene of Amon consists of what looks like a paedophile chasing a small child down an alley. In fact, it’s a demon chasing a small child down an alley. In fact, it’s a demon chasing a small child who is also a Devilman down an alley. Say whaaaaaat? That’s right, you heard right, there’s more than one now, for some reason, and they come in all shapes and sizes! The little Devilman is in fact luring the demon into a trap, for lying in wait is yet another Devilman, an adult female who pulls down her top and exposes her breasts, which are cannons that shoot acid… or something. Yeah, I’ve got nothing. While at first it seems like acid breast milk will win the day, the unfortunate truth is that these Devilmen ain’t really cut out for the big time, and Akira Fudo has to come to their rescue. After punching it and bouncing it all around the alley like some daftly Lovecraftian game of NBA Street, he disposes of the demon by sucking it into his fist. The life of a Devilman is always intense.

As the Devilmen emerge from the alley victorious, who should appear on a giant TV screen that dominates the city skyline but our old buddy Ryo, who tells people that they have to be extremely wary of demonic presences in their midst. After showing footage of Devilman’s birth that he somehow shot with multiple cameras and edited really tightly, which also contains the breast eating shot I mentioned earlier, the people, already paranoid owing to the increase in frequency of attacks carried out by demons in human form, start to riot. Akira tells his fellow Devilmen to go round up the Devilman army, which apparently is a thing, while he goes to check on his girlfriend Miki. Unfortunately, an angry fire-and-pitchforks type mob show up at her house, murder and dismember her child brother, and then kill her too before torching her house. I can only imagine seeing this for the first time knowing even less about Devilman than I already do and not having a fucking clue what is happening or who any of these people are. Miki definitely gets the short straw in this series. In the first OVA she’s around for a few minutes before Ryo shows up and tells her to fuck off; in the second she’s basically demon bait who spends most of her time naked and unconscious; here she’s just straight up murdered ten minutes in, and then a little later she’s murdered again in one of Akira’s nightmares.

Unable to cope with the grief, when a demonic battalion shows up to fight him Akira loses his shit and Amon—the demon he originally fused with in the halcyon days of 1987—takes over, physically manifesting from Akira’s body, while his host’s consciousness now becomes dormant within him. Now Amon, for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, basically wants to kill everything. Demon, human, it doesn’t matter, he will try to kill it, and probably eat it too. To that end he turns from massacring demons to eating the child Devilman we saw earlier, and in this moment the whole weirdness of this OVA’s approach to gore and the extreme is encapsulated. The camera shows limbs and some unidentified fleshy thing (I don’t really want to know what it’s supposed to be) falling on the floor in a pool of blood at Amon’s feet, but when it cuts up to show the actual feasting, were it not for the blood and missing body parts it would appear oddly wholesome, for the action in itself just looks like Amon is trying to tickle the child with his teeth. Also, the people drawing this thing apparently couldn’t decide if the child still has their legs or not, so they disappear and reappear in various shots.

After that mighty pleasant sequence, the tone makes a sudden shift into what I would loosely define as “DragonBall Z on meth”. Amon and Selos, the leader of the demonic forces, duel each other in the abandoned city. Selos is dispatched easily, so Amon goes to confront Satan, who it turns out is a really handsome glitter boy twink with golden wings, and he’s just kind of hanging out atop an abandoned building. After an honest to God, good old fashioned kamehameha beam fight between Amon and a weird thing that is a head with legs, Satan commands Akira to awaken inside Amon, and what I think happens is they have one of those metaphorical contests of brutality that is really all in the mind. Akira transforms into Devilman, but Amon gets the upper hand very quickly, tearing Devilman’s wings off and pounding him into the dirt. When all seems lost, visions of Miki from beyond the grave—or beyond the pyre, I guess—spur Devilman to rise and fight once more. He defeats Amon easily, because it’s not just Akira Fudo, it’s all the friends he made along the away. That’s right, the power of friendship wins the day! Akira falls to Earth, and the adult female Devilman finds him in a Devilman shaped crater. Some time later, there are explosions, and Akira walks past Ryo, who I think is supposed to be Satan? Cue ill-fitting rock music. The end.

This is a real fucking weird one. I don’t really know how to describe it. Like I said earlier, I think there is a seriously bizarre approach to violence, some of it is extremely graphic, while some of it is obscured or even cut out completely. I can understand that time and budgetary constraints will necessitate these choices, but I’d rather watch Devilman brutally massacre an angry mob that just murdered his adoptive family than watch him rip someone’s tits off and eat them, demon or not—call me crazy! The surreal-ish horror of the older OVAs is completely gone, it’s more an action movie with some occasionally nasty gore in it. And the action itself isn’t really all that good, whether its the selectively squeamish gore, or the lack of impact behind punches and whatever else, helped not at all by the crappy nothing of a soundtrack. Say what you will about the quality of its predecessors—I certainly have—but they had something more to them than this. So newer is not always better, and I think that even with all the faults the previous OVAs have, this is by far the worst Devilman type thing I have seen so far. Still better than Violence Jack.

Chinese Girl Cartoons – Devilman OVAs (1987-1990)

Everyone’s talking about Devilman Crybaby. Not me, I only watch old garbage. This is yet another outing for Violence Jack. No, really. Let’s see, how to explain this… Well, I don’t actually know anything about Go Nagai’s fictional universe and I don’t really want to, but it’s something like Akira Fudo who fuses with the demon Amon to become Devilman is reborn as Violence Jack who is one third of Devilman or something and the other two parts of him are birds. That either sounds stupider than it is or doesn’t sound nearly stupid enough. Anyway, in the late ’80s (naturally) there were a couple of gory shitdub OVAs made of the Devilman saga and I thought I would check them out. I regret that decision, but since I went through with it I might as well get something vaguely redeeming out of it.

The Birth (1987)

Aptly titled, The Birth is about the birth of Devilman. A few million or whatever years before that happens, though, dinosaurs and fairies and crab monsters and weird plant things are at war with each other or something. Apparently some of them are possessed by demons, and we get what in the world of 1980’s anime shitdubs probably passed for an explanation of that a little later on, but for now let’s abruptly skip over to something else. In the present, some people go to a cave, and they die because there is a thing there. Spooky. After that we meet Akira Fudo, as yet not demonised, who is looking after rabbits. Some street punks kill the rabbits and beat Akira up. Now I know what you’re thinking, are these guys leather biker rapists? No, no they are not. Apparently Violence Jack’s world is what happens after Devilman kills or fails to kill Satan or something, and that’s when things really get bad, so these guys are a bit more tame—instead of chainsawing your head off while raping your girlfriend they just menace you with blunt objects and call you names. Okay, okay, yes, they kill animals, but they do that off-screen, which is basically the old school trash anime equivalent of being humane.

The first thing to note is that Akira, despite being a weakling, displays some kind of heroism in rescuing the third rabbit. While he does get the crap kicked out of him, he does indeed protect the rabbit, and the punks even admire his resolve on some level. This goes out the window pretty quickly when his buddy Ryo, who wears a cape for some reason and swears enough for a whole shipload of sailors, shows up out of nowhere. Thanks to the amazing English dub, Akira literally goes from a timid “oh no, who would do such a thing?” upon encountering the rabbits to growling “let’s take a swing at the motherfuckers!” when Ryo enlists him to fight demons, all in the space of about ten minutes. And they say kids grow up too fast these days! I’m skipping a bit of story here, though. Before the demons, we get a nice story with equally nice visuals about Ryo’s dad going insane and butchering the family dog before trying to kill Ryo and then setting himself on fire. Such is the power of demons, for Ryo’s dad was studying them and may have gotten, in a classic Lovecraftian kind of deal, just a little too close for his own good. At Ryo’s house, demons show up because his dad knew too much, and Ryo shows Akira a dead demon’s head, which Akira must put on his head in order to witness what basically amounts to the opening sequence but more detailed and even less intelligible.

With Akira thus fully convinced to take a swing at the motherfuckers, Ryo leads him to a nightclub that is for some reason inside his house and starts getting drunk and glassing dudes in the face. The point of this is to create a sabbath-like ritual of sex, intoxication, and blood, in order to attract demons. I will point out that earlier there were several demons inside his house, but I guess it doesn’t count unless you shout “fuckin’ hellfire!” and faceplant into a naked woman’s breasts. This is where things take a turn for the properly grotesque. Where Violence Jack is basically the Mad Max-style pulp/exploitation post-apocalypse taken to its logical extreme, revelling in dismemberment, rape, torture, and so forth, Devilman is a surreal phantasmagoria of body horror. While it would be a mistake to think of the OVA itself as anything other than Grade A trash, the sabbath sequence (at least before “I did it, I am Devilmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!”, after which point it becomes high comedy) features legitimately impressive gruesomeness of a sort that might have amused someone like Dalí for the way it contorts and perverts natural forms. He died in 1989, so who knows, he could’ve seen it, maybe. Probably not but the idea is appealing, kind of, maybe? Guys?

The OVA ends with Akira holding an apparently dead Ryo in his arms and shouting “why God?!” over and over again. And, in a way, that kind of sums it up. As you’ll note I’ve written somewhat less about this one than the sequel, and that’s for a few reasons. First off, it’s pretty slow and most of the dialogue is only memorable because it’s so bad. Second of all, I saw this a few days ago, and now I’m giving my recollections. Thirdly, the sequel is much more fun to talk about.

The Demon Bird (1990)

Akira Fudo, no longer a fresh-faced youth but an angry man with fangs that no one seems to notice, is living with his lady friend (but not in that way) who was briefly (hey, the OVA forgot who she was and so did I) seen in The Birth before Ryo showed up to drive his swearing-powered car (someone give this idea to a wealthy entrepreneur who is not Elon Musk, stat!) to the demon mansion. No longer one to be bothered by street thugs, now he leaps tall buildings in a single bound! No really, he does, parkouring his way about Tokyo or wherever he’s supposed to be. He can also kind of Spider-Man his way up walls by thrusting his fingers into concrete because he’s just that tough. After receiving a strange phone call, he parkours over to a sewer tunnel where some bad shit is going down. Human skeletons and strange hallucinations and a woman laughing lead him to fall through a conveniently placed hole and into an abandoned subway station, where a floating skull talks to him with his mother’s voice, but I don’t know how he can tell, it sounds like the woman who voices the Dark Souls intro started smoking two packs of Bensons a day. Maybe his mother really did sound like that? Not that I expect any continuity between dubs here, and even if I did I probably wouldn’t go back and check.

Anyway, a lizard armadillo demon who speaks with a deep south American accent for some reason shows up with a bunch of pustule-ridden human faces. These are souls that the demon traps on its shell in order to enjoy their suffering. Regressing from Dark Souls to Demon’s Souls hahaha shut up. This demon’s name is Ginman? As in the spirit gin and, well, man? I’m sure the dub is screwing it up somehow, but I don’t really know. Also this is apparently the demon that got Parkoura’s parents because it was indeed his mother calling to him, her soul is trapped in Ginman’s shell. The horror in this section seems considerably lesser than that of the sabbath sequence of yore. It’s true that Ginman can withstand attacks on his shell, which means that more pain is suffered by the trapped souls, including potentially Mama Fudo, but somehow the overall tone and presentation feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon than anything. After telepathically showing him her own body being destroyed, however, it gives him the gumption to get that there demon dead in a pretty anticlimactic fight. Of course, it is only a quarter of the way through, so I don’t know why I’m surprised by this.

After a brief visit with the decidedly not dead Ryo in the hospital, Akira goes to the beach—or does he?! No. No he does not. In fact it’s a pretty cool dream sequence which captures more of the subject matter’s potential for surreal, almost ghost train kind of imagery. If this “series”, such as it is, has a strength, this is it. If it had just been an hour of this kind of weird stuff each way then, despite its considerably lower budget, this could have been among the best of its era. Alas, it ain’t. Now seems as good a time as any, mid-paragraph (we’re really freewheeling now, baby) to talk about just how weird the dub is. All the voice actors are clearly American, but the script seems to have been written in England. If you’ve never heard the phrase “I’m knackered” being spoken with an American accent, this is your chance! It’s bizarre, any minute I expect one of the demons to say “cor blimey, it’s Akira Fudo, ouwight me ol’ china” or “chuffin’ ‘ell lad tha’s buggered that one”. I don’t know if this is in fact some bizarre attempt to make it seem foreign to American audiences while still being in English somehow, but I’m glad they did it, it keeps you on your toes.

Now, you might be wondering, just who or what in the heck that title is referring to. At first I thought it might be about the Violence Jack bird, it isn’t about that, thankfully, but there is indeed a demon bird. Sort of. It’s actually a naked woman with some avian features, and I guess if the Saturday morning kids’ show theme is what we’re going with, she’s Devilman‘s Rita Repulsa. She brings down a couple of demons from a thunder storm, who has some kind of light-based power that allows him to appear in mirrors or something, and there’s another one who is water? Is this a JoJo ref- No. Stop that right now. This is where we get another action sequence, and it’s a pretty weird one. The demons assault the house, Akira’s lady friend Miki (finally remembered!) is almost drowned in the bathtub, and her parents are phased into the architecture. The dub makes it kind of difficult to tell who is who, but as far as I can tell Gelmar is in fact the mirror and water demon (any reflective surface will do, it seems), and the other one is some kind of almost-snail with teeth and tentacles that speaks through a reverb effect that makes it impossible to tell what it’s saying. Reverb Snail is dispatched first, and then Akira uses his hot hands to set a bedsheet on fire which causes the water portion of Gelmar’s body to evaporate. I don’t really understand how the house isn’t a burning wreck but whatever.

Anyway, Akira kills Gelmar, and then the bird lady, whose name, according to the dub, is Shernu (hey, you want me to do research? pay me), swoops down and takes him for a ride. After Ryo, who is telepathic somehow, takes his swear-powered car and heads for a tall building, from which he shoots Shernu with a sniper rifle that he has because he does, things take a turn for the worse. The ensuing battle is kind of a tonal mess, jumping from spectacular explosions and gore to bloodless slapfights and back again. Things get even sillier when Shernu chants for Satan’s help, and the ever helpful Prince of Darkness sends a rhino demon who speaks like he’s doing a voice over for a coffee commercial down to Earth. There follows a conversation about whether or not Shernu should fuse with the rhino, and for some reason this is supposed to be an emotional moment even though we’ve never seen one of them before, and the one we have spent time with has spent that time doing nothing but shout “I’ll tear you limb from limb!” over and over again while getting punched in the face. It turns out that the rhino has been in love with the bird lady “since the dawn of time”, and in its ham-fisted way that makes no sense this is about as close as we get in this whole sordid affair to a romance. Anyway, the noble rhino rips his own head off and Shernu inserts herself feet first into the gaping neck hole, so I guess this is the closest we get to a sex scene as well, and by golly it was consensual! The power of love proves strong, and Devilman in fact loses the fight. Of course none of this actually matters because Shernu was about to die anyway, and Ryo shows up to put some bandages on Akira so everything is okay. Even the credits don’t think this is important, they just unceremoniously start up over Ryo and Akira’s conversation, and the dub credits even black out half the screen so that the whole thing ends with the kind of incoherence with which it began.

So that’s Devilman. The better part of two hours of people swearing at each other and dying in horrible ways. Of the Go Nagai adaptations I have seen it’s definitely the best, but given that the others comprise the Violence Jack trilogy, I’m going to go ahead and say that in the grand scheme of things it’s not all that great. It has moments where cool things happen, but then either the original direction or the atrocious dubbing completely ruins the effect. Taken as action horror it’s too goofy to take seriously, taken as a so-bad-it’s-good trainwreck it’s nowhere near shitty enough and most of the dub just isn’t that funny. But it has its moments of imagination, and for that I can’t really say it’s bad, it’s just very poorly balanced in its tone, with characters that are whatever they need to be for a particular scene, their traits being served up like a Woolworths’ pick ‘n’ mix rather than in accordance with any kind of developmental logic. It’s too all over the place in terms of quality to be mediocre, but it probably averages out to around that level. In conclusion, I guess you could say Devilman is a thing that exists.